Belgium

Belgium

Background

Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Political divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy. Its capital, Brussels, is home to numerous international organizations including the EU and NATO.

Geography

Location:
Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands

Geographic coordinates:
50 50 N, 4 00 E

Map references:
Europe

Area:
total: 30,528 sq km
country comparison to the world: 141
land: 30,278 sq km
water: 250 sq km

Area – comparative:
about the size of Maryland

Land boundaries:
total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km

Coastline:
66.5 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf: median line with neighbors

Climate:
temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Terrain:
flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: North Sea 0 m
highest point: Botrange 694 m

Natural resources:
construction materials, silica sand, carbonates

Land use:
arable land: 27.06%
permanent crops: 0.72%
other: 72.22%
note: includes Luxembourg (2011)

Irrigated land:
233.5 sq km (2007)

Total renewable water resources:
18.3 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 6.22 cu km/yr (12%/88%/1%)
per capita: 589.8 cu m/yr (2007)

Natural hazards:
flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes

Environment – current issues:
the environment is exposed to intense pressures from human activities: urbanization, dense transportation network, industry, extensive animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions for neighboring countries; uncertainties regarding federal and regional responsibilities (now resolved) had slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges

Environment – international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography – note:
crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO


People & Society

Nationality:
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian

Ethnic groups:
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%

Languages:
Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)

Religions:
Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%

Population:
10,449,361 (July 2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84

Age structure:
0-14 years: 15.6% (male 830,980/female 797,624)
15-24 years: 11.7% (male 624,486/female 598,904)
25-54 years: 40.4% (male 2,131,869/female 2,086,212)
55-64 years: 19% (male 690,395/female 704,284)
65 years and over: 18.7% (male 836,685/female 1,147,922) (2014 est.)

Dependency ratios:
total dependency ratio: 54.8 %
youth dependency ratio: 26.4 %
elderly dependency ratio: 28.4 %
potential support ratio: 3.5 (2014 est.)

Median age:
total: 43.1 years
male: 41.7 years
female: 44.4 years (2014 est.)

Population growth rate:
0.05% (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 188

Birth rate:
9.99 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 193

Death rate:
10.76 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38

Net migration rate:
1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 57

Urbanization:
urban population: 97.5% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 0.32% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas – population:
BRUSSELS (capital) 1.949 million; Antwerp 959,000 (2011)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2014 est.)

Mother’s mean age at first birth:
28 (2010 est.)

Maternal mortality rate:
8 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
country comparison to the world: 156

Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.18 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 194
male: 4.67 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.66 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.92 years
country comparison to the world: 37
male: 76.76 years
female: 83.22 years (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate:
1.65 children born/woman (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176

Contraceptive prevalence rate:
70.4%
note: percent of women aged 18-49 (2010)

Health expenditures:
10.6% of GDP (2011)
country comparison to the world: 20

Physicians density:
3.78 physicians/1,000 population (2010)

Hospital bed density:
6.5 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Drinking water source:
improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2011 est.)

Sanitation facility access:
improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2011 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108

HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS:
14,000 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94

HIV/AIDS – deaths:
fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125

Obesity – adult prevalence rate:
22.1% (2008)
country comparison to the world: 83

Education expenditures:
6.6% of GDP (2010)
country comparison to the world: 30

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 17 years (2011)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
total: 19.8%
country comparison to the world: 60
male: 20.4%
female: 19.8% (2012)


Government

Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local long form: Royaume de Belgique (French)/Koninkrijk Belgie (Dutch)/Koenigreich Belgien (German)
local short form: Belgique/Belgie/Belgien

Government type:
federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy

Capital:
name: Brussels
geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

Administrative divisions:
3 regions (French: regions, singular – region; Dutch: gewesten, singular – gewest); Brussels-Capital Region, also known as Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch), Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (French long form), Bruxelles-Capitale (French short form); Flemish Region (Flanders), also known as Vlaams Gewest (Dutch long form), Vlaanderen (Dutch short form), Region Flamande (French long form), Flandre (French short form); Walloon Region (Wallonia), also known as Region Wallone (French long form), Wallonie (French short form), Waals Gewest (Dutch long form), Wallonie (Dutch short form)
note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities

Independence:
4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)

National holiday:
21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I

Constitution:
drafted 25 November 1830, approved 7 February 1831, entered into force 26 July 1831, revised 14 July 1993 (creating a federal state); amended many times, last in 2012 (2012)

Legal system:
civil law system based on the French Civil Code; note – Belgian law continues to be modified in conformance with the legislative norms mandated by the European Union; judicial review of legislative acts

International law organization participation:
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch:
chief of state: King PHILIPPE (since 21 July 2013); Heir Apparent Princess ELISABETH, daughter of the monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Elio DI RUPO (since 6 December 2011); Deputy Prime Minister Alexander DE CROO (since 22 October 2012); Deputy Prime Minister Joelle MILQUET (since 20 March 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Laurette ONKELINX (since 30 December 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Didier REYNDERS (since 30 December 2008); Depurty Prime Minister Johan VANDE LANOTTE (since i6 December 2011); Deputy Prime Minister Pieter DE CREM (since 5 March 2013)
cabinet: Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
elections: the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and then approved by parliament

Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats; all members indirectly elected serve five-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Dutch, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies – last held on 23 May 2014 (next to be held May 2019); note – elections will coincide with the EU’s elections
election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – N-VA 19.6%, PS 13.6%, CD&V 10%, SP.A 9.5%, MR 9.3%, Open VLD 8.2%, VB 7.6%, Ecolo 5.5%, CDH 5.1% Groen! 3.9%, other 7.7%; seats by party – N-VA 9, PS 7, CD&V 4, SP.A 4, MR 4, Open VLD 4, VB 3, Ecolo 2, CDH 2, Groen! 1; Chamber of Deputies – percent of vote by party – N-VA 20.3%, PS 11.7%, CD&V 11.6%, Open VLD 9.8%, MR 9.6%, SP.A 8.8%, Groen! 5.3%, CDH 5.0% Workers’ Party 3.7%, VB 3.7%, Ecolo 3.3%, FDF 1.8%, the People’s Party 1.5%, other 7.2%; seats by party – N-VA 33, PS 23, CD&V 18, Open VLD 14, MR 20, SP.A 13, Groen! 6, CDH 9, Workers’ Party 2, VB 3, Ecolo 6, FDF 2, the People’s Party 1
note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities; this reality leaves six governments, each with its own legislative assembly

Judicial branch:
highest court(s): Constitutional Court or Grondwettelijk Hof in Dutch and Cour constitutionelle in French (consists of 12 judges – 6 Dutch-speaking and 6 French-speaking); Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie in Dutch and Cour de Cassation in French (court organized into 3 chambers: civil and commercial; criminal; social, fiscal, and armed forces; each chamber includes a Dutch division and a French division, each with a chairperson and 5-6 judges)
judge selection and term of office: Constitutional Court judges appointed by the monarch from candidates submitted by Parliament; judges appointed for life with mandatory retirement at age 70; Supreme Court judges appointed by the monarch from candidates submitted by the High Council of Justice, a 44-member independent body of judicial and non-judicial members; judges appointed for life
subordinate courts: Courts of Appeal; regional courts; specialized courts for administrative, commercial, labor, and audit issues; magistrate’s courts; justices of the peace

Political parties and leaders:
Flemish parties:
Christian Democratic and Flemish or CD&V [Wouter BEKE]
Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Gwendolyn RUTTEN]
Groen! [Wouter VAN BESIEN] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens)
Libertarian, Direct, Democratic or LDD (formerly Dedecker’s List) [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]
New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]
Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Bruno TOBBACK]
Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Gerolf ANNEMANS]
Francophone parties:
Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Olivier DELEUZE, Emily HOYOS]
Francophone Federalist Democrats [Olivier MAINGAIN]
Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Benoit LUTGEN]
Reform Movement or MR [Charles MICHEL]
Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]
Workers’ Party [Peter Mertens]
other minor parties

Political pressure groups and leaders:
Federation of Enterprises in Belgium [Pieter TIMMERMANS/Pierre Alain DE SMEDT]; Confederation of Christan Trade Unions [Luc CORTEBEECK/Claude ROLIN]; Belgian General Federation of Labor [Rudy DE LEEUW/Anne DEMELENNE]
other: trade unions; numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and the legal and medical professions; various organizations representing the cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants

International organization participation:
ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CD, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EITI (implementing country), EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MONUSCO, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SELEC (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Johan VERBEKE (since 10 March 2014)
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
FAX: [1] (202) 338-4960
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Denise BAUER (since 7 August 2013)
embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone: [32] (2) 811-4000
FAX: [32] (2) 811-4500

Flag description:
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colors are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field)

National symbol(s):
lion


Economy

Economy overview:
This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the more heavily-populated region of Flanders in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium imports substantial quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium’s trade is with other EU countries, and Belgium has benefited most from its proximity to Germany. In 2013 Belgian GDP grew by 0.1%, the unemployment rate increased to 8.8% from 7.6% the previous year, and the government reduced the budget deficit from a peak of 6% of GDP in 2009 to 3.2%. Despite the relative improvement in Belgium’s budget deficit, public debt hovers around 100% of GDP, a factor that has contributed to investor perceptions that the country is increasingly vulnerable to spillover from the euro-zone crisis. Belgian banks were severely affected by the international financial crisis in 2008 with three major banks receiving capital injections from the government, and the nationalization of the Belgian retail arm of a Franco-Belgian bank.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$421.7 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
$421.3 billion (2012 est.)
$422.5 billion (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):
$507.4 billion (2013 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:
0.1% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 196
-0.3% (2012 est.)
1.8% (2011 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$37,800 (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
$38,000 (2012 est.)
$38,400 (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

Gross national saving:
19.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
19.6% of GDP (2012 est.)
20.8% of GDP (2011 est.)

GDP – composition, by end use:
household consumption: 53.7%
government consumption: 25%
investment in fixed capital: 20.2%
investment in inventories: 0.8%
exports of goods and services: 81.8%
imports of goods and services: -81.5%
(2013 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 0.8%
industry: 22.6%
services: 76.6% (2013 est.)

Agriculture – products:
sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk

Industries:
engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum

Industrial production growth rate:
0.2% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 163

Labor force:
5.15 million (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 73

Labor force – by occupation:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)

Unemployment rate:
8.8% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97
7.6% (2012 est.)

Population below poverty line:
15.2% (2007 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2006)

Distribution of family income – Gini index:
28 (2005)
country comparison to the world: 125
28.7 (1996)

Budget:
revenues: $241.9 billion
expenditures: $258.2 billion (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:
47.7% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-3.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 128

Public debt:
102.4% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
99.6% of GDP (2012 est.)
note: data cover general government debt, and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions; general government debt is defined by the Maastricht definition and calculated by the National Bank of Belgium as consolidated gross debt; the debt is defined in European Regulation EC479/2009 concerning the implementation of the protocol on the excessive deficit procedure annexed to the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Maastricht) of 7 February 1992; the sub-sectors of consolidated gross debt are: federal government, communities and regions, local government, and social security funds

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.3% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36
2.6% (2012 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
0.75% (31 December 2013)
country comparison to the world: 127
1.5% (31 December 2010)
note: this is the European Central Bank’s rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
3.5% (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 161
3.62% (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of narrow money:
$185.1 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
$185.7 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 17 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money circulating within their own borders

Stock of broad money:
$591.7 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
$585 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$581.4 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
$574.8 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$NA (31 December 2012 est.)
$NA (31 December 2011)
$269.3 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance:
-$9.1 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
-$6.65 billion (2012 est.)

Exports:
$295.3 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
$302.4 billion (2012 est.)

Exports – commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs

Exports – partners:
Germany 18%, France 16.1%, Netherlands 13%, UK 7.3%, US 5.3%, Italy 4.4% (2012)

Imports:
$310.2 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
$311.1 billion (2012 est.)

Imports – commodities:
raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products

Imports – partners:
Netherlands 20.9%, Germany 14.2%, France 10.6%, US 6.1%, UK 5.5%, Ireland 4.4% (2012)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$30.77 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52
$29.43 billion (31 December 2011 est.)

Debt – external:
$1.424 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14
$1.417 trillion (31 December 2011)

Stock of direct foreign investment – at home:
$1.195 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$1.159 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad:
$1.215 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
$1.185 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)

Exchange rates:
euros (EUR) per US dollar –
0.7634 (2013 est.)
0.7752 (2012 est.)
0.755 (2010 est.)
0.7198 (2009 est.)
0.6827 (2008 est.)


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